Overcoming a Mistake – Three Things You Can Do

Overcoming a Mistake – Three Things You Can Do

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We all make mistakes. It happens. We’re human. It’s what happens after we make those mistakes and how we grow from them that helps define us personally and professionally. In today’s post, I’m going to share three suggestions on overcoming a mistake and how you can improve as a result of using my modest suggestions.

The $20,000 Learning Experience

A long time ago when I was just starting my career after graduating college, I made a $20,000 mistake. I was working for a daily college newspaper and they were running a special advertising supplement. Long story short, when I outputted the files to be printed, I didn’t tick a box that would have exported them as high resolution files. No, I wound up uploading low resolution files to the printing company.

When the paper came, the ads were blurry and in some instances unreadable. The paper wound up crediting all of the advertisers for the mistake and gave them an additional ad credit to the tune of $20,000. The ad supplement was a huge moneymaker for the paper, and the fact that it cost them money was upsetting. I was barely on the job a month when this mistake happened. I thought for sure that I was going to lose my job as a result. Surprisingly, I didn’t because I was new and my bosses felt that it served as a valuable learning experience for me. It taught me that I needed to slow down; that I needed to systemically review the steps for exporting the files; and that I needed to verify the finalized files. After that mistake, I didn’t make any future production errors in the nearly four years I was with the paper. Lesson learned.

Overcoming a mistake of this magnitude was a challenge to say the least. But I persevered and I improved as a result.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

Overcoming a Mistake

Own It

The first step to overcoming a mistake is to Own It. Yes, you messed up. You can say you’re sorry until the cows come home, but you have to own your mistake. Taking responsibility for the error shows that you’re human. It shows that you’re not perfect and that you’re willing to improve. Not owning the mistake or blaming others is counterproductive. People will respect you more for owning the mistake than trying to place blame where it doesn’t belong. In my story above, I accepted responsibility for my mistake. It was hard and humbling to do so, but it made me better as a result.

Learn From It

The second step to overcoming a mistake is to Learn From It. Consider mistakes a learning opportunity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If you keep making the same mistakes, you’re not learning from them. A mistake is a golden opportunity for you to see what happens when things don’t go as planned. Learn from it and move on. That’s what I did with my mistake. I learned three valuable lessons as a result of the error and I didn’t repeat the mistake again.

Don’t Dwell On It

My third suggestion to overcoming a mistake is to Not Dwell On It. It happened. You can be mad, angry, sad, upset, irked, or insert other colorful adjective here, but it isn’t going to change the fact that you made a mistake. I used to have a hard time letting go when I screwed up, but I eventually realized that it wasn’t healthy. I vowed to learn from the experience and then I moved on. I know that I have been better as a result. In my example above, I was really upset about the mistake and it did take me a few days to get over. That was when I was younger and an immature professional. Today, when I make a mistake, I’m able to let it go a lot easier.


Mistakes happen. But how you respond to the mistake is what’s going to define who you are as a person and as a professional. Heeding my advice and implementing the three steps I suggested above will make you better at overcoming a mistake. “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

What say you? Have you made a mistake? What happened? What did you learn from it? Please share in the comments below.

Disclosure of Material Connection

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a modest commission from the sale. These links help support the maintenance of this website.

Please be advised that I only recommend products or services that I have used or tried personally and believe will add value to my readers' lives. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”